Valorie Belk
God Religions
Sharp Records
By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.
Valorie Belk, a singer born in Tampa but now living in Atlanta, has old-school chops. She’s a quieter, more pensive version of COGIC singers Emily Bram-Bibby and Madame Ernestine Washington.  In other words, if Bram and Washington were trumpets, Belk is a trumpet played with a soft mute.
However, on Belk’s album, God Religions, it sounds as if her traditional style was plopped in the middle of a contemporary accompaniment.  She follows the beat box as much as possible, even though its seeming inflexibility is the antithesis of gospel improvisation and interpretation.  On the opening selection, “Jericho,” her voice is lost in a swirl of synthetic rhythms.  Her vocals would have been more compelling without the incongruous mix that detracts from, rather than enhances, her performances.
On the other hand, the uncredited background singers on God Religions do a fine job supporting the leader.
A couple songs from the album are worthy of note.  “This World is Not My Home” is a quartet-style selection on which Belk admits that she, like other pilgrims, is “just passing through this old weary land.”
For “Money Can’t Buy Religion,” Belk personalizes and adds emphasis to the classic couplet “If religion were a thing that money can buy/The rich would live and the poor would die” by changing the last part to “we would surely, surely die.”  She points out the Yogi Berra-esque irony of heaven as a place so great and the price of admission “too high” that low is the only way to get there.
Valorie Belk, who has also sung blues, would be better served by a project that simply featured her singing with organ and piano: a more traditional combination for a traditional singer.
Two of Five Stars
Picks:  “Money Can’t Buy Religion.” 

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Written by : Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.